I had never seen anyone use a ventolin inhaler.

I recall when I was younger and at school (over 35 years ago) that I had not really seen anyone suffering from asthma except for one young lad. I remember him clearly because I had not seen a ventolin pump before , but here was one lad in my class who suffered from asthma. The things that stick in my head about him is that stress used to trigger his condition and that he did not take part in many of the PE sessions. I never really understood the condition but knew that it was something which caused the young lad a lot of ill health. BUT he was the only person I knew when I was young who suffered from asthma.

The real shocking thing was when my own children started school and my son was diagnosed with asthma . The thing that surprised me was the number of children in his class who used Ventolin and suffered from asthma.We had to clearly label all our Ventolin inhalers with our son’s name, as there were so many children with the same medication in one class.  That was a very big change over the two decades having so many young people suffering from asthma. Why has there been such an increase over the 20 years?

News Today:   Earlier today on the BBC News, there was an article related to asthma in young people and the possible over-diagnosis of the problem. Read further  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-35967380.   Prof Mark Baker of NICE said: “Accurate diagnosis of asthma has been a significant problem which means that people may be wrongly diagnosed or cases might be missed in others.”

It will be interesting to find out what steps will be taken by the medical profession to deal with the issues of asthma. In the meantime, as a Naturopathic Nutritional Therapist we can address the management of the condition using additional lifestyle recommendations . Remember to continue the use of your inhaler, any changes which you make should only be after consultation with your GP or Doctor.

What is Asthma?

Asthma is a long term respiratory condition which affects the airways of the lungs. As it affects the airways it can leave the person with breathlessness because not enough oxygen is getting through to the body. The natural instinct is to breathe more quickly and there is the feeling of gasping for breath. In very extreme cases, if the condition is not dealt with quickly, it can be fatal. So, asthma is a serious condition. Carrying the inhalers once you have been diagnosed becomes a vital task.

Asthma UK outlines very clearly the various aspects of asthma and managing the condition. It is worthwhile checking that website for further details and the research which is currently being undertaken.

Asthma can occur when something irritates the airways, and the body reacts in 3 ways:

  1. The muscles around the walls of the airways  tighten so the airways become more narrow.
  2. The irritant causes the lining of the airways to become inflammed and they start to swell.
  3. The body reacts and starts to secrete mucus/phlegm . This starts to build up causing further narrowing of the airways leading to further problems with taking in oxygen.

The person finds it hard to breathe which leads to the symptoms of asthma, such as chest tightness, wheezing and coughing.

What are the possible root causes of asthma?

The trigger for asthma can vary from one person to another. In most cases, each individual has a list of irritants that can trigger the condition.The commonly recorded causes of asthma have been outlined below:

  • Allergies : Environmental or food
  • Pollution
  • Environmental Irritants: solvents
  • Infections
  • Cold Air
  • heavy physical exertion
  • Poor digestive function
  • Hormonal imbalance
  • Emotional stress

If you experience a severe asthma attack , you must call for emergency help at once or ask someone to get you to the hospital. Do not drive yourself. 

Managing the condition?

There is no known direct cure for asthma, there is only management.Always make sure that your inhalers are in arms reach, as the attack can strike at any time . It is best to take your prescribed medication as soon as there is  the onset of an attack. Having managed a young son with the condition, this can be tricky. Even now, I have to remind him to make sure that he has his inhalers in his coat pocket especially during the colder months or if he has a chest infection (although he is a lot better as he grew up, but you never know , so its best to be cautious).

A Naturopathic Nutrition approach to managing Asthma

What’s in the diet?

Certain foods have been known to cause inflammation and mucus discharge which can lead to asthmatic symptoms. If you have been able to pinpoint what foods make you feel uncomfortable, then it is worth avoiding them. The following foods have been found to be triggers:

  • dairy products
  • junk foods (processed foods)
  • sugary foods
  • Fried foods
  • refined foods
  • Foods with additives and preservatives
  • Foods which have been sprayed with preservatives should also be avoided
  • Avoid all frozen or cold foods which can trigger the asthma.
  • Keep pressure of the diaphragm by eating smaller meals
  • Avoid foods which cause a lot of gas : broccoli; cauliflower; brussels sprouts

ADDITIVES & PRESERVATIVES

A lot more companies are becoming ethical by removing additives and preservatives from our foods. It is not altogether clean yet, and may never be. However asthmatics do need to avoid certain chemicals which can trigger their condition. There will always be the balance between finding really clean food and accepting that one cannot avoid certain preservatives and additives.

Commonly known additives and preservatives which trigger asthma:  (reference: E for Additives, Maurice Hanssen1987). 

E212 ; POTASSIUM BENZOATE

E213 CALCIUM BENZOATE

E214 ETHYL 4-HYDROXYBENZOATE

E215 ETHYL 4-HYDROXYBENZOATE, SODIUM SALT

E216 PROPYL 4-HYDROXYBENZOATE

E217 PROPYL 4-HYDROXYBENZOATE, SODIUM SALT

E218 METHYL  4-HYDROXYBENZOATE

E219 METHYL  4-HYDROXYBENZOATE, SODIUM SALT

E310 PROPYL GALLATE

E311 OCTYL GALLATE

E312 DODECYL GALLATE

621 SDIUM HYDROGEN L-GLUTAMATE (MONOSODIUM GLUTAMATE)

622 POTASSIUM HYDROGEN L- GLUTAMATE (MONOPOTASSIUM GLUTAMATE)

623 CALCIUM DIHYDROGEN DI – L- GLUTAMATE

627 GUANOSINE 5- (DISODIUM PHOSPHATE)

631 INOSINE 5-(DISODIUM PHOSPHATE)

635 SODIUM 5-RIBONUCLEOTIDE

E102: Tartrazine: synthetic, azo dye, yellow colour. Can make asthmatics 10-40% worse

Products:  fruit squash ; cordial; coloured fizzy drinks; instant puddings; cake mixes; custard powder; soups – packets and tins; pickles; salad creams; ice cream; lollies; jam; marmalade; jelly; mustard; smoked cod; smoked haddock; sweets; chewing gum.

E107: Yellow 2G; food colour; azo dye; synthetic. 

Products: The use of E102 has been banned in the UK; Austria; Switzerland; Japan and USA. ALWAYS CHECK LABELS ON PACKAGING OF FOOD ITEMS FROM OTHER PARTS OF THE WORLD.

E122: Carmoisine; red colour; synthetic azo dye. 

Products: Packet soup; blancmange; packet breadcrumbs; packet jellies; sweets; packet cheesecake mix; brown sauce; savoury convenience food mix; pre-packed swiss roll; prepacked sponge pudding; marzipan; flavoured yogurts; jams and preserves.

E124: Ponceau 4R; azo dye; red colour

Products: Packet trifle mix; packet cheesecake mix; packet cake mix; packet soup; seafood dressing; dessert topping; tinned strawberries; tinned cherries; tinned redcurrants; raspberry pie filling tinned; quick set jelly mix; salami.

155: Brown HT; synthetic azo dye; brown colour. 

Products: Chocolate flavour cakes

Sulphur Dioxide

Products: Fruits especially dried fruits as it is concentrated; meats; raspberry juice; raspberry syrup; fruit salad; packet soup; glace cherries; dried bananas & apricots; blackcurrant jam; desiccated coconut; tinned cauliflower; beer; wine; cider; cider vinegar; candied peel; tinned crabmeat; cream desserts; flavourings; powdered garlic; gelatin; dry root ginger; frozen mushrooms; dehydrated vegetables; sausage meat.

E211 Sodium Benzoate, Preservative – antibacterial & antifungal.  E212: Potassium Benzoate

Products: caviar; prawns; sweets; margarine; fruit pies; soft drinks; oyster sauce; salad dressings; BBQ sauce; Mexican taco sauce; cheesecake mix; soya sauce; orange squash; preserves; pickled cucumbers; tables olives; concentrated pineapple juice.

E310: Propyl Gallate

Products: Vegetable oils; margarine; dry breakfast cereals; instant potato; snack foods; chewing gum; chicken soup base; potato sticks, also used in butter , dried cream or cheese.

RECOMMENDATIONS FROM THE WELL BEING TEAM for Diet & Lifestyle

  1. Eat light simple foods, which are as fresh as possible and always make sure where possible, that you ensure that there are no additives
  2. Seeds
  3. whole grains
  4. Lean poultry
  5. Fresh fish
  6. Dark green leafy vegetables are rich in caretenoids which have  natural anti-inflammatory properties
  7. Some studies have shown that children who eat fish more than once per week have 1/3 less chance of developing asthma
  8. Garlic/onions have anti-inflammatory properties
  9. A glass of clean water every 2 waking hours to keep the body clean . Water also helps to break down mucus build up.
  10. Ground flax seeds are an excellent source of omega 3 fatty acid which is an anti-inflammatory
  11. Stress reduction techniques: yoga/ meditation/deep breathing exercises
  12. Mild-moderate exercise. Be careful as the cold air can trigger an attack, so during the winter months it is useful to wear a mask over the mouth .
  13. Clean your house at least twice a week using a HEPA filter in the vacuum.
  14. Wash all bedding at least twice per week to remove the dust and dust mites which are a trigger.
  15. Avoid all sources of smoke, including any log fireplaces.

Food Supplements, if you feel that you would like to add on additional support:

  1. Essential Fatty Acids: It can take 4-8 weeks to see an improvement. A good mixture of omega 3,6 & 9 may be helpful.
  2. Magnesium: This is a natural muscle relaxant. Caution: has a laxative effect. helps to improve the lung function.
  3. Vitamin C: Lessens the spasms of the bronchial passages and has anti-allergy benefits.
  4. Antioxidant formula which helps to mop up the toxins in the body.
  5. Enzymes: Improve the absorption of nutrients and help with the decrease of allergic reactions.

Some more recent research is showing that deficiency of vitamin D may be associated with the increase in numbers of asthmatics. However, concrete evidence has not been provided yet .

Finally, Asthma is a condition which has no cure but has to be best managed. Make sure that if you are sufferer of asthma that you carry your medication at all times . Try to eat a clean and healthy diet. Avoid additives and preservatives in foods. Try some deep breathing exercises to strengthen the muscles related to respiration.

All information provided above is not a treatment plan. You must seek advice from your healthcare professional before making any changes to your diet , lifestyle or medication. Copyright Mrs G Nandhra BSc(Hons) Psychological Sc; Diploma Nutritional Therapy (CNM). April 2016